STATIC CRACKLED through Snodgrass’s radio. The other cops called him Grass for short but today he was Bigeye. He liked that—it made him feel important, large and all-seeing.
“Bigeye, Bigeye, Bigeye, this is Mobile Three, over.”
He reached down and gave the squelch knob a tweak. More static. He reached for the radio’s handset and toggled its switch.
“Mobile Three, this is Bigeye, over.” More static.
Grass kept on tweaking.
“Bigeye, this is Mobile Three, do you have visual on the subject, over?”
Grass could see the biker standing in the yard beside his house, smoking a cigarette, or perhaps something else, as he waited for his bike to warm up. He turned away and Grass saw the colours on his back. He looked at them and tweaked a bit faster.
“Mobile Three, this is Bigeye; affirmative Mobile Three, I have him in sight, over.”
“Bigeye, this is Mobile Three; you are to follow the subject and note his movements, where he goes and who he associates with. We are particularly interested in anything that he may be carrying. Confirm, Bigeye, over.”
Grass was an exemplary officer. He could tweak and toggle at the same time.
“Mobile Three, this is Bigeye; message received and understood, will comply, Bigeye out.”
Grass hung the handset hurriedly on its little hook. He had wanted to end with something a bit more impressive, like “good hunting” or “onward once more unto the breach,” but the subject was strapping on his helmet now. Grass noted this in his notebook, just in case. You just never knew what might end up being important later on down the track, when it came time for the prosecutors to interpret the facts from his notes. He’d always been good at filling in the blanks, but he had huge respect for the talents of the DPP. Man, those guys could see things that just didn’t seem to be there. But that was why they got the big bucks.
The biker was off now, riding down the street. Grass was immediately suspicious. Why was he moving so slowly? This was a 60 km/h zone and he seemed to be doing just under that. Keeping one eye ahead, he scrawled a theory in his pad—the guy was obviously trying to avoid drawing attention to himself. He grabbed his mobile phone and quickly text messaged a reminder note to his laptop back at headquarters while he finished scribbling. These law breakers were going down today.
As they reached the end of the street, the bike suddenly picked up speed. Grass was immediately suspicious but didn’t have time to scribble or text.
They were soon heading north out of the suburbs and toward the city. Grass tried to keep a couple of vehicles between his and the bike; he didn’t want to be discovered and perhaps die under a hail of bullets. Bikers were infamous for going armed and he knew they didn’t hesitate to kill anybody who stood in their way, or behind them as the case may be. He shuddered and fingered his Glock, making sure his two spare mags were there. He then checked the .45 Officers ACP strapped to his ankle, the Remington pump in the back seat, his pepper spray, truncheon and trench knife. He flipped open the glove-box and noted the .38 snub and speed loaders. He knew he had a dozen CS canisters under the passenger seat and a 7.62 Remington 700 rifle in the boot, as well as a few useful extras. Last he tapped his palm reassuringly against the flak jacket he wore and adjusted his gas mask in its case. No, he was quite safe in his discreetly armoured police vehicle from anyone stupid enough to carry weapons.
The rider was indicating to turn right but Grass waited until he had actually begun to turn before reacting; there was no knowing if the signal was a red-herring calculated to confuse him and throw him off the scent. No, he was definitely turning off and didn’t seem to be undertaking one of the dangerous maneuvers that were typical of this type. Wrenching the wheel he cut across three lanes to follow, noting the number plate of a station wagon full of kids that screeched into a slide to avoid him. They’d be getting an infringement notice for undue care and attention.
Leaning forward over the wheel he watched as the biker pulled into a pub carpark. This was it then, the nefarious rendezvous. Cunning bastards. They’d chosen a typical pub full of citizens to cover up their criminal activity. Smart, but not smart enough.
Grass parked the vehicle under the shade of a coolabah tree and settled down to wait once again. He raised his high-powered binoculars and focused them on the public bar at the front of the pub. He lowered them and checked in the rearview mirror to make sure they hadn’t left any black circles around his eyes. Sabotage was everywhere. There was nothing so he turned his Bigeye back to the action.
He could see the subject inside through the window. He was at the bar and seemed to be engaged in conversation with the bar tender. Interesting. Perhaps this was another arm of the evil octopus that was tearing the tender underside of society into dripping bloody shreds of gore. Yes, the octopus. The octopus. Strange word, octopus; the more you said it the stranger it seemed. Octopus, octopus, octopus. The subject was moving again.
Following the bloke with his precision instrument, Grass realised that there were other desperados in the bar. He could see one fella with a big red beard and noted the flash of blue and black tattoos as he lifted his glass. Calling on all of his skills, Grass strained to read one tattoo just visible on the criminal’s forearm, which hovered tantalizingly as the man stopped to laugh at something undoubtedly base and corrupt the subject was saying to him.
MUM it said. Mum? What could that signify? Grass strained to recall the pages and pages of sub-culture linguistics he’d had to study to be selected for operation Flagrant Bias.
Then he had it and a thrill went through his body, chilling him to the depths of his soul. Murder Unlimited Machine. By God and all his shiny minions, that was it! He knew that the primary groups of evil-doers sub-contracted hits to associated organisations with names differing from their own. This was it, the career maker.
He switched the binoculars for a camera and began to photograph everyone in the bar, noting with utter disgust that at least one other person in the bar had the same gratuitous monogram of malevolence inscribed upon their skin. Shameless. He began to feel angry, but calmed himself, calling upon all of his professionalism. No, there was a better way. The way of the righteous, of the triumphant law… He ducked down under the dashboard as an old woman left the pub and tottered off down the footpath. That had been close; he had better keep control of his emotions.
Inside the subject had begun a game of billiards. Grass zoomed in and taped the entire game to see if the lab could identify any patterns in the numerical sequences with which the various balls were dispatched from the field of play. If there was any kind of message imbedded in the progress of this apparently ‘innocent’ (his mind spat the word) game then it would be brought out into the clear light of day.
He also taped the second and third games. The subject had seemingly won the first game. His opponent had seemed to win the second. Then the subject had apparently been victorious in the third. But why did they stop playing after that? The subject seemed to embrace his opponent and an intricate handshake ensued. Grass wondered if he was witnessing some kind of ritual, or if perhaps some contraband was being passed before his very eyes. Should he call in the dogs? He had to consider it. What did it all mean?
He mused on this baffling question as he panned around the room. Their purpose was hidden from him for the moment but they did not count upon his application to his sacred duty.
The subject and his cronies were sitting at a table in the corner now. A woman, whom Grass realised with a shock was dressed in lingerie in the middle of the day, approached them and offered them some strips of paper. They gave her money and took the strips of paper. Was she selling LSD? They obviously didn’t know her because they were all looking at the exposed parts of her body very closely. They must be looking for the MUM tattoo. Typical tribalism, only the initiated were acceptable.
Everyone in the bar seemed to be checking out this scantily clad woman now as she spun a large wheel in the corner of the room. It didn’t help her in gaining the acceptance of this closed fraternity though, because as it slowed to a halt, most of the people their threw their strips of paper on the floor or into an ashtray. They were rejecting her. But wait! His theories were crystallizing into hard fact now because the one person who approached her with a broad smile was the subject himself! He was giving the strip of paper back to her. And she was handing him a large package!
Shaking with excitement Grass toggled.
“Mobile Three, Mobile Three, Mobile Three, this is Bigeye, over.”
“Bigeye, this is Mobile Three; go ahead Bigeye, over.”
“Mobile Three, this is Bigeye; I have identified criminal elements at the Railway Hotel. I have witnessed several instances of criminal conduct and recorded elements of covert communications. I have also observed what I believe to have been a drop by a drug courier. I request the dogs ETA ASAP, over.”
“Bigeye, this is Mobile Three; dogs will attend. Have you maintained contact with subject, Bigeye, over?”
Grass looked up and his jaw dropped. The subject was back outside and once again smoking as his bike burbled at his side. He noted that the smug bastard was still smiling.
“Mobile Three, this is Bigeye; subject is leaving the Railway; request permission to continue surveillance. We may be able to get the big fish this time; Mobile Three, over!”
“Bigeye, this is Mobile Three; continue with surveillance. Be careful Bigeye, Mobile Three, out.”
The subject was on the move now, leaving the carpark. Grass started his engine and watched with the vigilance of a chicken-hawk.
Grass was starting to feel like a real lawman at last. What he was doing here today would help change things for the better; he was fighting against anarchy, against chaos.
At that moment the dog squad arrived and stormed the front bar of the Railway Hotel, glasses crashed to the ground and women screamed as the Shepherds began to systematically herd everyone into a struggling mass against one wall.
Grass’s adrenaline began to flow. He moved into the flow of traffic and began to follow. The package was under the man’s jacket; he’d seen him slip it in there just before he jumped onto the motorcycle. There was no getting away now.
He followed until the biker arrived back where the saga had begun. Grass watched as he parked the bike and stripped off his helmet and jacket. The package was placed in plain sight on the bike’s seat.
Grass reached for the radio handset but hesitated. This person’s absolute disdain for the law, for the norms of society and his completely relaxed attitude in dealing with the contraband, got Grass thinking.
It was up to him to make sure this kind of person never had any further opportunities to spread his corruption. It was an affront to every decent man and woman that he be allowed to walk free among law-abiding citizens. The law was the unbending iron-clad rule that people like this had no right to defy. He was a threat to everything Grass believed in—decency, morality, sobriety, piety and chastity—and Grass had no confidence that the courts would adequately punish him. The courts would maybe put him away for a few years, amongst his friends where he would just kick back and laugh at the world until he got out to do it all again. Grass fumed and suddenly realised the truth.
He was the avenger, the angel of justice, the suit of authority that will not be denied. He had the duty, no, the right, to make sure this scum got what he deserved. Grass reached across and deliberately switched off the radio. He got out of the car and went around to the boot. He opened it and reached inside, taking out a small article wrapped in cloth. This was Grass’s drop-gun. A drop gun was an untraceable weapon that could be placed upon the body of a person shot in error, or by necessity. It provided the essential mitigating frame for an act of justice such as this. Grass put the drop-gun in his pocket. He doubted he’d need it—there would be guns aplenty inside—but better safe than sorry.
He crossed the street and did a quick scan of the criminal’s property. There was no movement at the front of the biker’s house. Grass nodded in satisfaction and moved up the side of the place to the back.
As he passed the bike itself he paused and looked at it. How could a bloke like this afford a Harley-Davidson? That was the first question he had asked any Harley rider he pulled over that wasn’t obviously a factory equipped weekend warrior. “What do you do for a living?” It wasn’t as if he expected them to reply truthfully and say that they were drug dealers or ran prostitution rings or such like. The question was actually a passive aggressive way of saying, “I don’t think someone who looks like you should own anything that I can’t afford.” But those dumb pricks would never understand the depths of his contempt for them. Nice fucking bike though. Grass wondered if he might be able to get hold of it at auction after this maggot’s assets were seized post-mortem.
He eased the Glock from its holster and flicked off the safety. He always carried it locked and loaded for times like this. He could hear voices around the corner and smiled. Maybe he’d get to bag more than one animal today. Balancing himself he flexed his legs and leapt around the angle of the house holding his pistol in a two-handed combat target grip.
The peep sight fell immediately upon the subject who was standing next to a BBQ, holding a small child.
Grass blanched. For a moment he was in two minds. He couldn’t really fire; he might hit the kid. Actually there were three children there, all gaping at him with astonished eyes. What were children doing here? He felt sick. He had to do something about this.
He motioned with the gun.
“You, put the child down and come over here, right now!”
The bloke did as he was told. But as soon as he got close to Grass he started to go off. “What the fuck do you think you are doing here? Who the fuck do you think you are? What are you doing on my property? Where’s your fucking warrant?”
Grass wasn’t intimidated. “Where’s the package, arsehole?”
The biker looked like he was going to explode. He turned and pointed.
There, sitting next to the hissing BBQ was a meat tray. Steak, chops, a few snags, lamb shanks, spare ribs. The biker’s little son was trying to turn over one of the steaks that was beginning to burn a bit.
A woman that Grass hadn’t seen yet appeared from the house and picked him up. She took over where he had left off and offered Grass an eyeful of pure malice.
Grass really felt sick now. He looked at the family standing there in front of him and realised he wouldn’t be able to take this guy out after all. He’d underestimated his quarry. Somehow he’d managed to switch the packages and make sure there were plenty of innocent by-standers. He’d said it before—these were cunning bastards.
After ordering them all to the front yard, Grass called for back-up and forensic arrived to conduct a search. An hour later he had the satisfaction of arresting the biker for possession of a small amount of cannabis, a well-used bong and a small pistol that he himself had ‘found’ behind a cupboard, despite the fact the forensic specialists had missed it all together.
The pride he felt was enormous; he’d been right after all. This bloke who swore he was a spray painter was really a drug dealer, the evidence was clear. Grass would prove it one day when there was an opportunity to ‘find’ more incriminating evidence. He looked long and hard at the bloke as he sat cursing in the squad car waiting to be taken away.
Grass would be making a report to child protection about these kids being in a house where adults used drugs and possessed illegal weapons. If he had his way they’d never see their parents again. Grass wrinkled his nose and spat. These scum would learn what the law was really all about.
Grass hated men who ran in packs like cowards, who conspired together against the public good and did anything to promote their own selfish needs above and beyond those he was sworn to protect.
As the fleet of cars, vans and specialist units formed into a convoy to head back downtown, Grass took one last look at the three kids and the woman standing in the gutter waving. The tears on their faces were obviously all part of the ploy. These kind never changed, always pretending to be something they were not. But he’d get a conviction at least, despite the fact he had been unable to fully exercise his righteous power and kill the dirty lowlife.
Grass laughed and shrugged, there’d be another time. He was, after all, an anointed one, one of the select elite who would protect the lower orders from themselves. He planted his foot and headed for the station. He was going undercover and needed to change his clothes; he certainly didn’t want to be recognised. Ever.